Todd R. Marrah, Ed.D.
Abstract:The Furnishing the Soul Project: A Portrait of the Spiritual Lives of ACSI Students (2009)
The mission of Christian schools includes the spiritual formation of students. Spiritual formation is the process used by the Spirit of God to form the inner human character into a likeness of the being of Jesus.
The purpose of this study was to measure Association of Christian Schools, International 6th through 12th grade students’ perceptions of their spiritual formation and their schools’ impact on it. The study was built upon a theoretical framework of Hall’s (2006) Relational Spirituality and upon the idea that all spiritual formation takes place in relationships, both in a relationship with God and with God working through others. Literature was used to support the importance of transformation of the heart and transformation of the mind. Additionally, a myriad of authors highlighted the importance of spiritual disciplines as a conduit through which God brings about transformation. Theories of adolescent development were explored to support the validity of valuing adolescent self perception and to strengthen the case for intentional efforts in Christian schools toward impacting secondary schools’ students’ spiritual formation.
Students confirmed an emphasis on relational spirituality identifying teachers, mentors, friends, and pastors as significant contributors to their spiritual formation and parents as the primary influence in their decision to become a Christian. The results indicate an overall moderate degree of spiritual engagement and vitality. Students reported connecting to God most strongly through meaning, gratitude, and in the midst of suffering. Students reported lowest means in knowing God through prayer and spiritual practices. Students reported that their Christian school programs impacted them most strongly in the areas of praise/worship, retreats, chapels, Bible classes, and faculty mentoring.
School program areas with the least impact on student spiritual development were opportunity in crisis, school scripted mentoring, internships, school counseling, and extra curricular activities. More than 70% of students experienced a crisis or stressful event in the past year.
Christian school implications from this study included: students connected relationally to God but not through prayer and the spiritual disciplines, students are experiencing significant crisis but report that school counseling programs are not impacting their transformation in crisis, and students are strongly impacted by relational spirituality.
For Dr. Marrah's complete dissertation, click here to order (UMI Publication Number 3386444).